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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jim Towey
Jim Towey
January 16, 2004

Jim Towey
Hello again. Great to be back online with you. Yesterday I traveled with the President and attended his roundtable with faith-based and community leaders in New Orleans, and also went to Atlanta where the President honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. It was a great day, and if anyone saw his speech at Union Bethel, you saw a President who really believes in his faith-based initiative!

Guy, from New Orleans writes:
What mechanisms are in place to monitor and deal with grouops that defy the rules about using the money to promote their religion?

Jim Towey
There are systems in place to monitor federal grants to ensure that public money goes to public purposes. For example, a federal grantee can not take public money and lobby with it, or convert it toward personal uses. Similarly, a faith-based organization that gets a Federal grant may not preach with it - that would be an impermissible use, and grant officers will be monitoring grants as they always do, to ensure that the money only goes toward permissible uses.

Bob, from Little Rock, Arkansas writes:
Our organization, FamilyLife, has been conducting marriage enrichment conferences across the country for 27 years. Last year, almost 200,000 attended. How might we partner with your efforts to reach even more homes with marriage-strengthening tools and resources?

Jim Towey
Hi Bob. You all do great work. The President wants to strengthen marriage and family life in America and has proposed a number of things to do that. His budget will be released soon, and soon he will deliver his State of the Union address. So stay tuned.

Julie, from Washington, D.C. writes:
Good afternoon, I am a law student who is about to graduate, but before law school I volunteered as a youth worker in my church youth department. There, I saw first hand how a faith-based group can make a difference in the life of a teenager. How can I help President Bush's Faith-Based initiative with my law degree? Is there a need for lawyers in this area?

Keep up the good work.

Julie Warren

Jim Towey
Thanks for the encouragement, Julie, and even more so for your efforts to touch the lives of our youth who need connections with adults so that they know they are valued members of society. Yesterday the President met at the airport with a student who mentors, so he greatly appreciates what you do. Lawyers can make a difference in many ways - working in government, volunteering with local charities that have legal issues that must be addressed, or at a firm that works on religious liberty issues. There are many lawyer volunteer groups, through Bar Associations and other groups, so good luck getting involved. And God bless you for thinking about others and how to help. We have faith-based centers in several federal agencies so visit our web site at and learn how to apply for work there. Good luck!

Samuel, from Michigan writes:
Mr. Towey, As student of Economics, it seems to me to make more financial sense funding the Faith Based Initiative to address issues concerning society at the root causes. Why do some politicians continue to argue that they support

social programs, while approving funding for programs that are wasteful,

when the President's plan is the most compassionate plan of all ?

Approving the President's full funding in this program will actually reduce the long term financial burden required by other programs, and help many of those in need become more active participants in the economy.

Thank you.

Jim Towey
You're right Samuel that we labor in vain if we don't attack some of the root causes of the suffering of our poor, and often those causes have spiritual dimensions to them - addicts feel lonely, unwanted, unwelcome, and have lost a sense of their great dignity. The President's initiative recognizes the important and central role government has to play in addressing societal problems, but he feels that many faith-based and community groups have the distinct advantage of being able to build connection and relationship with those served.

Althea, from Tampa, Florida writes:
Last year, Florida faith-based organizations were invited to attend an introductory training conference in Tallahassee sponsored by The Institute for Youth Development. IYD had received a major grant from the

Compassion Capital Fund to provide sub-grant and technical assistance to

the faith-based community. The task was daunting and appears to have overwhelmed IYD to such an extent that many faith-based agencies have not been adequately served. That has been our experience as well. Is IYD the

only organization which has received funding to "train" faith-based groups? If there are others, how may we contact them? If there are no others, what can be done to ameliorate IYDs present distress so that the services for which it was engaged can be effectively rendered?

Jim Towey
You are right - IYD did receive a Compassion Capital Fund grant, and has been conducting seminars across America. Go to our web site and click at CCF and see the other providers. Also, we have White House conferences to educate and inform the public, and registration is free. We were just in your neck of the woods on December 4th, I think. Good luck with your work.

Gail, from Knoxville, Tennessee writes:
The schedule and locations for the White House Conferences being held in

various cities across the country have been being announced only one at a time and only about six weeks in advance. This provides no opportunity to select among options for distance or schedules and does not give enough lead time to process travel requests and get flights at lower rates (usually 30-days in advance). Is there some reason that a schedule cannot be posted for the fiscal year. Even if the details are not available, a list of established cities and dates would be extremely helpful for those of us on grassroots budgets.

Jim Towey
Good point, Gail. I wish we could announce the year's schedule far in advance, but often we adjust the schedule based on regional expressions of interest, and also to the availability of Cabinet members to attend (and their schedules aren't locked down that far in advance). Hope you were able to come to the Memphis conference. The next two are out west, and then we will be back in the East, Southeast and Midwest for the remainder of the year.

kendra, from Michigan writes:
what is the presidents phone number?

Jim Towey
I don't have it. The White House switchboard is 202 456-1414, and you can leave a comment on the comment line if you have something you want to tell him.

Jason, from South Salem, NY writes:
What kind of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives can we look forward to from President Bush in 2004?

Jim Towey
Stay tuned for his State of the Union in four days. Yesterday he talked with New Orleans leaders about his plans, in general terms, and one thing is clear: he is pursuing, with steadfast resolve, his faith-based and community initiative!

Peggy, from Raleigh NC writes:
There is a story circulating that President and Mrs. Bush spent December 22 at Shiloh Church in Virginia delivering Christmas presidents to underpriviledged kids and having their pictures taken with them. Also that the Bushes remained after the press left and talked with everyone there. Is this true?

Jim Towey
Yes, he and Mrs. Bush did go to see the children of prisoners at a church in Alexandria, Virginia. They have a program called "Angel Tree" that makes sure that the children won't be forgotten on Christmas day. And yes, they had a wonderful time there, and probably didn't want to leave. They love spending time with children.

Brad, from Florida writes:
What book would you recommend to best understand the appropriate separation of church and state in the United States? I am a teacher in a

public school. Thank you.

Jim Towey
Philip Hamburger's "Separation of Church and State."

timmy, from Conn writes:
Does this Faoth based initiative include churches on the moon or Mars?

Jim Towey
Good question, Timmy. I don't know if the space-based initiative will have a faith-based initiative component!

Hanna, from Otterville,Ontario writes:
Actually I don't really have a question just simply a little remark.

I think President Bush is doing a good job as being President of the United States of America. And I also very much respect and appreciate how he trusts and puts his faith in God. I hope God will help him and hope President Bush can be a President for a long time with Gods Blessing.

Jim Towey
Thanks, Hanna. You are nice to pass those encouraging words along. I know that he deeply appreciates the prayers of the American people. Yesterday he spoke a good bit about faith and the difference it has made in his life. Click here to see the speech. Keep us all in your prayers, ok?

Michael, from New Jersey writes:
Hello Mr. Towey. It's Michael Hollingsworth. I just wanted to say hello and belated happy holidays. Take care.

Jim Towey
Hi Michael! Great to hear from you! We miss you here!

Ed, from Indiana writes:
Mr. Towey: What resources are available to churches and their congregations?

Thank you.

Jim Towey
Check our web site. Click here. It will take you to programs and funding sources. God bless you.

Logan, from Rochester, NY writes:
Hi Jim, I am a 17 year old high school senior who is currently considering a career in politics. I have two questions for you, one related to your job, the other for "fun". First, I think it's great that this office has been added. I am asking whether the office will be pursuing efforts to protect child abuse, which is a very disturbing and growing problem and too often not given the attention it needs.

Second, have you ever seen The West Wing? I must admit I love the show, and I'm curious as to how the administrations officials perceive it. Have a great day

Jim Towey
Hi Logan. Yes, the HHS department's Administration on Children and Families has a number of programs to prevent child abuse, and help foster families and other programs to assist these children.

I don't watch TV much, and I don't watch West Wing. I think the West Wing is a lot larger on TV and it looks more like a busy train station - most real West Wing folks are in meetings or at their desks and aren't constantly milling around. Good luck if you pursue a career in politics. Keep you eye on those who are weak and need an advocate, ok?

Jim Towey
Well, the time flew by again! Sorry I could only take a fraction of the emails that came in. Hope you have a great weekend, and don't forget to tune in for the State of the Union speech that the President will deliver next Tuesday. God bless you all, and if you are living in the Northeast, I hope you stay warm!